MHA Nation, much like the rest of the country, is enduring tough times. With the winter season upon us, mental health tends to deplete as seasonal depression rises, and the COVID-19 pandemic only creates an even bigger combination of setbacks for the community. Although COVID is a major priority right now for leaders and healthcare professionals, it is important that other issues are not forgotten about, especially as we approach a historically difficult time of year.
Substance abuse plagues a vast majority of MHA Nation right now, and it has for quite some time. With substance abuse rising, crime rates have also taken a rise not only in number of offenses but also in the severity of the crimes, ranging anywhere from a misdemeanor all the way to felonious capital murder. Those crimes and everything in between have been recent occurrences in the Ft. Berthold community.
To add to that, tragedy has also been on the rise too, unfortunately. Overdoses and deaths have been at an all time high on the reservation. TAT Law Enforcement’s statistics for overdoses from January 1, 2020 through July 21, 2020 are 69 overdoses; with 6 of those being deceased upon arrival to the scene. This statistic includes adult men, adult women, and adolescents.
In order to combat substance abuse and the issues associated alongside it, public health officials have ruled prevention and awareness as a priority during these trying times. Connie Ebach, who is a nurse practitioner for Elbowoods Memorial Health Center (EMHC) and most recently a licensed provider for the medication assisted treatment program, has allocated funds from the Tribal Opioid Response Medication Assisted Treatment Program Grant for the very purpose of instruction and education. Through word of mouth, Connie heard of Jermaine Golloway’s “Tall Cop Says Stop” specialized training, which takes an in depth look into current drug trends around the nation and provides informative measures on how to prevent these drug trends from taking over in your community. “[Drug] trends are always evolving, it’s important to stay ahead of them”, notes Golloway.
Jermaine Golloway, who is from Texas, started his career in law enforcement but eventually left to dedicate himself full time to conducting drug information training. He has been doing specialized trainings for the betterment of the nation since 2007. Jermaine spends a lot of his time researching new potential drug threats and provides that information in his “Tall Cop Says Stop” course and others. He travels all over the country to provide real time information so that communities can stay well informed and ahead of drug issues. His “360 view” on drug trends has been taught to over 60,000 people in any given year, most recently, here in New Town.
On October 21st and 22nd, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and clinic providers participated in Galloway’s “Tall Cop Says Stop” course at the Northern Lights Building, which was sponsored by Four Bears Segment V. Judy Brugh’s office and North Segment Dr. Monica Mayer’s office. This training was conducted so that providers are able to improve and maintain the quality of care they provide, more specifically in regards to the medication assisted treatment program offered by EMHC. Nyamka Reese, grants manager for EMHC, commented, “as much as COVID is affecting us right now, substance abuse is still an ongoing issue that seems to be getting worse.” The goal for their grant is to improve and maintain sobriety through their medication assisted treatment clinic and also provide adequate support services to address substance abuse and overdose crises. Over the course of the two-day training, roughly 30 public service personnel sat down for a speaking engagement with Jermaine Golloway while observing COVID mitigation measures. Those in attendance gained a “360 view on drugs”. One thing Golloway emphasizes regarding the ever-evolving alcohol and drug usage is “you can’t stop what you don’t know.”
EMHC’s medication assisted treatment program was created two years ago with Dr. Taylor’s initiative. Although Dr. Taylor is no longer with EMHC, the program has carried on. Dr. Lee currently has a few patients who are doing well according to Connie Ebach. EMHC’s program is a continual program, which means it can be continued for patient care from an outside program, but patients cannot start their medication assistance at Elbowoods Memorial Health at this time. “Fentanyl is huge now, meth was huge, then it was opioids, now it’s fentanyl”, comments Ebach, who is also a medical provider for Gerald Tex Fox Justice Center in New Town. “It’s important to do these trainings, we need to know what’s going on. Because now we’re starting to see the youth with these drugs in their system (referencing to opioids and meth)” Ebach added while talking about the importance of doing educational trainings. She would like to do the trainings more often, but COVID has made doing in person training difficult and uncertain.